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Recent posts by Kevin Fishbain
Here's a look at how the Patriots' first-year players are faring through 12 games:
CB Devin McCourty (first round): In the third quarter, McCourty badly whiffed on a tackle of Braylon Edwards on the sideline, and the receiver got a 24-yard gain before being knocked out of bounds. The rookie made up for his gaffe at the end of the quarter, picking off a pass down the sideline to Edwards. Similarly to his pick when covering Detroit's Calvin Johnson the previous week, McCourty was stride-for-stride with Edwards and leaped in front of him to make the play. He has the rookie lead with six interceptions.
TE Rob Gronkowski (second round): Gronkowski had a quiet game, catching one pass for 12 yards on two targets. He deferred more snaps to Aaron Hernandez than he had previously because the Patriots threw the ball a lot. ESPN showed a stat that the Brady-Gronkowski combination has the league's best QB-WR passer rating.
OLB Jermaine Cunningham (second round): Playing often, Cunningham made a big impact during the Pats' stellar defensive performance. He had five tackles, including one for a loss. He also had a QB hit when he almost sacked Mark Sanchez. Cunningham's hit on Sanchez on a 3rd-and-short led to the Jets wasting a challenge early in the game.
ILB Brandon Spikes (second round): Whether it was being in the right place at the right time or knowing where Sanchez would throw the ball near the goal line, Spikes made a huge play by picking off his first career pass and keeping the Jets out of the endzone. He also recorded seven tackles.
TE Aaron Hernandez (fourth round): After a few weeks of barely being targeted, Hernandez got into the action on Monday night with a big 35-yard catch-and-run. He capped off the drive with a one-yard touchdown pass from Brady. His 39 receptions this season is a team record for most by a rookie tight end.
P Zoltan Mesko (fifth round): Mesko had a solid game considering the elements, sending three punts for 140 yards with a long of 52. He dropped one inside the 20 and had a net average of 38 yards. The Patriots' net punting average is ninth in the league after being dead last in 2009.
LB Dane Fletcher (undrafted free agent): The speedy 'backer saw some time in the team's sub package and will best remember this game as one where he muffed an opportunity to recover a LaDainian Tomlinson fumble. He finished with one special-teams tackle.
DL Kyle Love (UFA): Love saw some time on the defensive line in certain sets, giving Gerard Warren a spell. He did not record a tackle.
Notes: DE Brandon Deaderick (seventh round) and S Sergio Brown (undrafted) were both active, but neither recorded a tackle. ... WR Taylor Price (third round) was inactive.